previous next

[200] to enable us to see the way of settlement. And, first, I am inclined to believe—indeed, I entertain scarcely any doubt—that they became free menwhen taken, by the voluntary act of their owners, beyond the jurisdiction of the Slave States. Slavery is not a national institution; nor is it one recognized by the law of nations. It is peculiar to certain States. It draws its vitality from the legislation of those States. Now, this legislation is of course limited to those States. It is not extra-territorial in its influence. Our New England courts have decided that a slave coming to our soil by the consent of his master—as, for instance, a servant—becomes entitled to his freedom. The invigorating principle of the common law manumits him. It is not so, however, with a fugitive slave. And why? Because the Constitution of the United States has provided for his surrender; but the case of a fugitive slave is the only one provided for. The courtier of Queen Elizabeth said that the air of England was too pure for a slave to breathe in. I will say that the air of the ocean is too pure for slavery. There is the principle of manumission in its strong breezes,—at least, when the slave is carried there by the voluntary act of his owner. If I am correct in this view, these slaves were remitted to their natural rights. They were justified in overthrowing by force (not mutinous or murderous, because justifiable) any power which deprived them of their liberty. In doing what they did, therefore, they have not been guilty of any crime: they are in the same situation with the others who did not participate in the alleged murder.

But, in the next place, suppose we are wrong in this view; suppose they were not justified in rising, as they did; suppose, in short, that they have committed the crime of murder under our laws,—still, I say, England will not be obliged to give them up. The crime will be piracy by statute, and not by the law of nations. Now, it is perfectly clear by the law of nations,—and no nation has acted upon this rule more than the United States,—that no government can be called upon to surrender persons who have offended against the municipal laws of another government. It is, of course, within the discretion of a government to surrender such offenders; but it is no just cause of complaint that a government refuses to exercise this discretion. There can be no doubt that England will refuse to exercise it. Believe me, my dear sir,

Very faithfully yours,

P. S. It may not be uninteresting to you to know that Judge Story agrees with the view presented in the Boston paper on the ‘Right of Search.’ He agrees with every line of it. Chancellor Kent has written me that he has ‘no hesitation in subscribing to it, as sound, logical, and conclusive.’ Mr. Choate, of the Senate, gives it his assent. I do not know what Mr. Webster thinks about it.

To Lord Morpeth, then at Philadelphia, he wrote, Jan. 19, 1842:—

Last evening, I was at two graceful gatherings of our Boston world,— one at Mr. Jeremiah Mason's, and the other at Mrs. Ritchie's. I wish you

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
United States (United States) (1)
New England (United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Fletcher Webster (1)
Charles Sumner (1)
William W. Story (1)
Ritchie (1)
Jeremiah Mason (1)
William Kent (1)
Rufus Choate (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
January 19th, 1842 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: